Sunday, November 20, 2011

876. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Running Time: 142 minutes
Directed By: Frank Darabont
Written By: Frank Darabont, from the short story Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King
Main Cast: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown
Click here to view the trailer


At exactly the halfway mark, on my way to "401 films watched, 600 films to go" and my 4th TOP 20, I decided to slip in a personal favorite, just to sweeten the pot - "The Shawshank Redemption".

The year is 1947. Andy Dufresne (Robbins) hears the bang of a judge's gavel and a sentence of "guilty", for the murder of his wife and her lover. Andy is sent to Shawshank Prison, as our film opens, where he is to serve two consecutive life sentences - one for each of his victims. Upon his arrival at Shawshank and for the first month or so, Andy keeps to himself, strolling around the yard like a free man strolling through a park. After some time passes, Andy approaches Red (Freeman) to request a rock hammer - for carving rocks. Seeing as how Red is the "man who knows how to get things", Andy knocked on the right door and Red agrees to help out Andy. Some more time passes and Andy & Red form a friendship. Andy also makes his usefulness known to the guards, letting them in on the fact that he was a banker on the outside world and helping many of the guards with their finances. When Andy begins helping the corrupt Warden Norton (Gunton) of Shawshank it initially seems like a good move toward getting on the good side of some of the higher-ups. Later, when some information that could free Andy comes to light, the Warden refuses to acknowledge it, knowing that if Andy were to ever be released it could spell trouble for the scheming, scamming, dirty Warden Norton.

I saw "The Shawshank Redemption" for the first time back in the mid-1990s. I can still vividly remember watching it for the first time, as once again it was my brother showing me the good films, that would ultimately form the backbone to my interest in movies. I remember I remember seeing the name "Stephen King" flash across the screen, during the opening credits and initially thinking that this must be a horror film. I remember thinking that no matter what the movie I was about to watch, was about, that it would SURELY scare me. Trust me, in my very early days, I let my eyes gaze upon Stephen King adapted movies, such as "It" and my sleep schedule would ultimately pay the price for it. So, as "The Shawshank Redemption" started and despite my brother's insistence that it wasn't a horror movie, I still convinced myself that I would surely, somehow, get a fright from something. And so, "The Shawshank Redemption", for the longest time (though no longer) held a certain aura about it. It was a movie that wasn't scary at all, but for some reason would always give me an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach, one that was almost unnoticeable to me. Just a certain haze would hang over me and when I stared up at the walls of Shawshank Prison, along with Andy Dufresne when he first walked in, I would get a chill. Even tonight, as I watched the film for the first time in quite a while, I got goosebumps when the powerful score played and a bus carrying Andy and his fellow inmates rounded the turn and drove through the gates of Shawshank.

"The Shawshank Redemption" doesn't give me that aura of uneasiness anymore. Tonight, when I viewed the picture for the umpteenth time, it was like visiting an old friend. I knew what was coming, I knew all the surprises, but I was still glad to see it again and when the credits rolled at the end I said "farewell", yet again, as the tears strolled down my face. "The Shawshank Redemption" has always had the ability to make me cry. I usually start tearing up when they show a shot of Red holding a magnifying glass and laughing as he looks at a map and envisions Andy crossing the border in his car, with the top down. From there, the tears come and go until Andy and Red reunite on the beaches of Zihuatanejo.

Also, like an old friend, I've learned to overlook the flaws, as few of them as there are. The good always outshines the bad when it comes to me and "The Shawshank Redemption". Maybe I only love this film because it's been a part of my curriculum for so long. It's been a film that for years and years has been brought up anytime I get into a conversation about films with a "commoner". In fact, "Shawshank" is the one film that I think EVERYONE loves. It's the one film that can be the favorite of a film snob or a film imbecile, which may be why it currently sits atop the IMDB TOP 250 Movies of All-Time list. I always have the hardest time writing about personal favorite films of mine. Sometimes, it just comes to the point for me, when I forget why I fell in love with a movie and I just know I love it. Why do I like "The Shawshank Redemption"? I just do! It portrays a beautiful friendship, taking shape in the most unlikeliest of places. It has fantastic acting and a Morgan Freeman narration (which is always good for at least a few brownie points). It made careers, in my opinion, for both Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman and honestly, I don't think we'd still be talking about either of those actors today (especially Robbins) if it wasn't for this film. "Shawshank" has a commanding, powerful score that knows when to lay low and knows when to come up blazing. It provides a plethora of memorable scenes and even has a few key, intelligent twists and turns. Darabont proved here, with one film, that he is a master storyteller. He understood the source material to such a degree that he was able to sculpt a perfect film to immortalize that story and to keep the audience captivated.

RATING: 10/10 Fifty more films to go before I make my 4th TOP 20 and the pot just got a whole lot sweeter. FYI: this, "Jaws", "Once Upon a Time in the West", "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" and "The Shop on Main Street" are all battling it out, in my head, for the #1 position of that list. Whew!


November 20, 2011 1:47am


  1. Thanks so Much i Love Shawshank Redemption and i am glad that we have the same feelings towards the movie.

  2. Not much to add I guess.


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